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General Writing and Grammar Help/Head FOR a place - head TO a place

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Question
Dear Ted:

Do you say, "to head FOR a place" or "to head TO a place"?

If both are possible, do they have the same meaning?

If not, when should I use each of them?

Would you please give me some examples?

Also, which of the following is correct: "to be HEADING for/to a place" or "to be HEADED for/to a place?

Again, many, many thanks for your kind help.

Paolo

Answer
Dear Paolo:


Do you say, "to head FOR a place" or "to head TO a place"?

If both are possible, do they have the same meaning?

If not, when should I use each of them?

Would you please give me some examples?

**** The two phrases mean the same thing.  Although both of them are frequently interchanged, common usage sometimes determines which one is more appropriate.

*** For instance, there is a common expression used in many cowboy [western] movies:  "Let's head FOR the hills."  That sentence means that the persons must retreat.  Heading "for the hills" is similar to hiding.

Another example:  We are HEADING TO the hills for our vacation this year.  This sentence has nothing to do with "hiding."  It simply means that, this year, we are going to the mountains for our vacation.

*** Although they mean the same thing, I would guess that "HEAD TO" is used in at least 90% of the time.  It is just a more popular expression.

Also, which of the following is correct: "to be HEADING for/to a place" or "to be HEADED for/to a place?

*** Either one is correct.  It depends on the context of the sentence.  I am heading to the movies.  I am headed for the movies.  Either one is correct; both make sense.  "AM HEADING TO" suggests that you are actually on your way at the time of speaking.  "AM HEADED" says that you intend to go, but there is no time mentioned.  You could be going right now, or you could be going tonight.

*** Paolo, I know that you recently had a birthday, and I intended to send you greeting.  I failed to follow through.  BUT, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, PAOLO!!!!

Ted

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Ted Nesbitt

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I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public college. Some members of the English department recommend me to their students. I offer assistance in grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and paragraph development. My master`s thesis concerns William Faulkner`s tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.

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I have been one of the highest-ranked volunteers in this category for more than a decade.

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B. A. and M. A in English; MSIS in Library & Information Sciences; graduate study in philosophy

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